Behold: a truly bizarre recent discovery by a team of scientists in Bulgaria, Poland, the UK and China.
It seems – when ordinary oil droplets floating in soapy water are cooled to around 2-8°C – they change shape, grow tentacles and propel themselves around like sentient marine life. To wit:
Some of the particles’ facets grow while other shrink, producing a variety of geometrical forms such as kites, isosceles triangles and spiked tetrahedra. Then, from some of the sharp corners emerge tentacle-like strands, as if being extruded from a nozzle. As they grow, the strands bend into undulating shapes — and the droplets start to swim, propelled through the fluid by the tentacles’ extension.
Behold: Velox – a prototype amphibious robot designed by Pliant Energy Systems of Brooklyn with an all terrain propulsion system inspired by the locomotion of several natural species. To wit:
Velox can use several modes of locomotion found in the animal kingdom using just one pair of “fins”. These fins are best described as four-dimensional objects with a hyperbolic geometry that allows the robot to swim like a ray, crawl like a millipede, jet like a squid, and slide like a snake.
A craft equipped with this system has unprecedented freedom to travel through a range of environments in a single mission. As an underwater vehicle, the robot’s ability to instantly reverse direction and do quick turns make it ideal for task such as coral reef inspection or dragon fish hunting where a craft must rapidly manoeuvre to look around and between objects.